Volleyball set for tough 2014 slate

Val Nichol

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) – The Boilermaker volleyball team has announced its 2014 slate, including 14 home matches. Purdue will face off with 10 NCAA teams from 2013 as well as seven teams that wrapped last season in the AVCA Top 25.

The Boilers will take on No. 9 San Diego along with USF and LSU at the season-opening Mortar Board Premier in West Lafayette. Purdue will open the slate with a 10 a.m. Friday contest against USF, which finished 17-15 including a fourth-place American Athletic Conference finish. The marquee matchup of Day 1 pits the Boilermakers against the Toreros, which advanced to the Sweet 16 and finished with a 26-4 record including a first place finish in West Coast Conference play. After Saturday’s football game against Western Michigan, the volleyball team will wrap up the tournament against the LSU Tigers, which received votes in the final AVCA poll after advancing to the NCAA second round and posting a 19-13 overall record and ninth place Southeastern Conference finish.

The Boilermakers will spend weeks two and three of the season on the road at the Kennesaw State Owls Invitational in Kennesaw, Ga., and the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational in Bowling Green, Ky. In Georgia, Purdue will face the Elon Phoenix, the UNC Ashville Bulldogs and the host KSU Owls. Elon posted a 16-17 mark and seventh place Southern Conference finish in 2013, while the UNC Ashville went 17-14 and finished fifth in Big South play. KSU is looking to improve on a 13-17 mark and sixth place Atlantic Sun finish.

In Kentucky, the Boilers will take on the Austin Peay Governors, the Western Michigan Broncos and the host Western Kentucky Lady Toppers. The Governors went 13-22 and finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference western division, while WMU was 17-14 including a fourth place finish in the Mid-American Conference’s west division. WKU went 27-6 and finished first in Sun Belt Conference regular season play.

Purdue wraps the non-conference season with its annual Active Ankle Challenge, where it will play host to Saint Louis, Morehead State and Notre Dame. SLU is coming off a 13-17 season and fourth-place finish in the Atlantic 10. Morehead State posted a 27-8 record and finishing first in the east division and winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title, earning an NCAA berth. Notre Dame is looking to build on a 13-18 campaign including an 11th place finish in Atlantic Coast Conference action.

The Big Ten slate features home and home matches with Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers and Wisconsin. The Boilermakers also will play six teams just once, visiting Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska and playing host to Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

The Big Ten featured eight NCAA Tournament teams in 2013, including No. 8 Purdue: national champion No. 1 Penn State; national runner-up No. 2 Wisconsin; No. 7 Nebraska, which advanced to the Elite Eight along with the Boilermakers; No. 10 Minnesota, No. 14 Michigan State and No. 16 Illinois, which each advanced to the Sweet 16; and Michigan, which made a first round appearance and received votes in the final poll.

Purdue posted a 23-12 record and finished sixth in Big Ten play in 2013. The team claims elite status on the court as one of only five Division I teams to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 each of the last four years. The Boilers ended the 2013 season ranked eighth in the final AVCA Coaches Poll after their second Elite Eight run in the last four seasons and seventh Sweet 16 berth in the last nine seasons.

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